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FBI Continues to Investigate Dallas County DA Craig Watkins, Court Records Indicate

dallasnews.com | January 7, 2014

By Kevin Krause

The mortgage fraud prosecution of millionaire Al Hill III ended months ago, but federal court records indicate that the FBI is still investigating how Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins handled the matter.

Just last month, the FBI asked Hill’s attorneys for documents related to Watkins’ prosecution of Hill, according to court filings in an unrelated federal lawsuit.

“The agents have requested that Mr. Hill III, through his counsel, provide the FBI with a number of categories of documents relevant to their investigation,” George Milner, an attorney for Hill, said in a court filing.

Hill’s lawyers also say in court filings that the State Bar of Texas has asked them for documents as part of its investigation, although the nature and targets of its inquiry are unclear.

“The public has a compelling interest in both law enforcement and in the body charged with regulating attorneys having full and fair access to evidence of potential crimes and attorney misconduct,” Hill’s Los Angeles attorneys wrote.

A state bar spokeswoman said she could not comment on active investigations.

The FBI has been investigating Watkins for about two years, though the breadth and focus of its inquiry are unclear.

In May, the FBI began reviewing all records associated with the criminal case against Hill, who claims Watkins sought to indict him as a favor to Watkins’ friend and political benefactor Lisa Blue.

Watkins released a statement Friday, saying he’s confident Hill and his attorney will be held accountable for their actions.

“This is just another tactic to divert attention away from the fact that an independent grand jury indicted Al Hill III for mortgage fraud,” Watkins said. “Hill’s lawyers are being unethical in their efforts to try to disparage me and the DA’s office in an attempt to clear their client when the grand jury has spoken. Just because you are rich doesn’t mean you can bypass the justice system.”

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas said in September that his office had ended its investigation of Blue. A spokeswoman for the office said Thursday that she had no comment on the continuing investigation. The FBI also declined to comment.

Hill has been involved in a federal civil court dispute with several attorneys — including Blue — over their fees. They represented Hill in a battle over the family fortune. Hill is the great-grandson of oil magnate H.L. Hunt.

Attorneys for Blue and other lawyers have asked a federal judge to close the cases before Hill “manufactures yet more ‘concerns’ in his conspiracy-driven quest to evade finality.”

In March, State District Judge Lena Levario dismissed the mortgage fraud charge against Hill on the same day she held Watkins in contempt of court for refusing to testify about it.

In her ruling, Levario wrote that Watkins’ refusal to testify about his communications with Blue during a hearing strongly supported “the inference that defendant’s [Hill] claims of misconduct are true.”

In August, Watkins was acquitted of contempt of court when a different judge decided that the hearing on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct should never have been held.

Hill has accused Watkins of committing prosecutorial misconduct by conspiring with Blue to have him indicted.

Hill said the criminal charges prevented him from taking the stand in the fee dispute he had with Blue and the other lawyers. The lawyers were awarded an amount later reduced to $22 million.

Russell Wilson, a prosecutor in Watkins’ office, has said the office had probable cause to seek indictments against Hill for making a false statement on a loan application.

Hill was accused of taking out a nearly $500,000 loan in 2009, using the Highland Park home where he lived as collateral. But he only owned a percentage of the home, with the remainder owned by a trust that benefited his father. The loan was repaid.

Staff writer Jennifer Emily contributed to this report.

 

Back to January 2014 Archive

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